Long Branch, N. J. (Jun. 28)
(Jewish Daily Bulletin)
Rabbi Louis Finkelstein of New York was elected president of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America at the concluding session of the convention held at the Hotel Scarboro here for three days.
Rabbi I. H. Levinthal of Brooklyn was chosen vice-president, Rabbi Elias Margolies of Mount Vernon, treasurer, Rabbi Israel Goldstein of New York, recording secretary and Rabbi Alter Landesman of Brooklyn, corresponding secretary.
To the Executive Committee were elected Rabbis Harry Davidowitz of Atlantic City, Max Drob of Philadelphia, Jacob Kohn of New York, Harry Rabinowitz of Boston, Morris D. Levine of New York, Morris Schurstein, of Providence, R. I., Rabbi A. Burstein of New York, Louis M. Levitzky of Wilkes, Barre, Paul Chertoff of New York, Norman Salit of Far Rockaway, Hyman Solomon of Vineland, N. J., Max D. Klein of Philadelphia, Isador Hoffman of Utica, Leon Lang of Newark, Samuel Rosenblatt of Baltimore and Max Kadushin of Chicago.
A report on the president’s message was submitted by a committee at the final session. “The committee heartily endorses the suggestion made by the president that regional conferences of members of the Rabbinical Assembly be organized during the coming year. It would only add that such assemblies be held at least five months previous to the annual assembly, so as not to conflict with the attendance to the annual gathering.
“The committee endorses the suggestion made by the president that every member of the Assembly pledge his whole-hearted support to Dr. Elias Margolies, chairman of the United Synagogue campaign. The committee endorses the suggestion that the Pension Fund Committee be retained and that it continue its work to determine the sum needed to establish a pension fund on a firm basis and that the committee set energetically about securing such a fund.”
The same pension system as that of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations was suggested for the Rabbinical Assembly.
Rabbi Samuel Fredman presented a paper on “Observations on the American Rabbinate.” “I. believe the time has come,” he said, “to call a halt to new synagogue expansion. A rabbi cannot do justice to a congregation of thousands. Whether we like it or not, our congregations are taking on something of the Christian churches. Our members want to see the rabbi in their homes and as a friend and advisor and comforter of the family. Our slogan should be: ‘Bigger rabbis and smaller synagogues.'”
“Some problems of the Congregational Schools” were presented by Rabbi Max Arzt who stated that the secular Hebrew schools are declining and that the congregational schools are growing. In New York City there was a decrease of nine percent in attendance at Hebrew schools during the decade 1917 to 1927, while during the same period there was an increase of over 200 percent in attendance at congregational schools. In Boston the increased attendance at Hebrew schools was forty-three percent, while at congregational schools the attendance rose 400 percent.
A decision to aid the China Famine Relief Fund was adopted by the convention.
An important problem affecting about a quarter of a million Jews in the outlying communities of the country, cut off from Jewish religious and educational influences was presented by Dr. Cyrus Adler, president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, in his address before the convention.
“I have been very seriously considering, as no doubt many of you have in recent years, the state of the Jews in America,” Dr. Adler declared. “It is nothing to be despaired of but it gives one furiously to think. It my information is reasonably correct, the Jewish population of America is past the four million mark and we therefore have a community equalled in number probably only by that of the restored and enlarged Poland. Yet, as far as I can see, very few people in this country are thinking in terms of this whole community, and many of us are not even thinking in terms of a partial community. We are only thinking of our own individual unit. I warn you, gentlemen, that if this situation continues the result will be the greatest attrition that any Jewish community has ever witnessed, except through actual exile or carnage.
“I have the general impression, which I may be able later on to substantiate from figures, that the number of persons thus affected within one or two generations would be over a quarter of a million. And please remember that I am now speaking only of the small towns and not of the equally isolated and cut-off fractions of communities of the large cities. The great metropolitan districts come under almost the same kind of conditions.
“Now what is the remedy?
“This is a large matter and I think, in order to meet it, that the gentlemen of this Assembly ought to put their strength into the Synagogue organization which runs, parallel with this organization, I mean the United Synagogue, so to strengthen it that it might do some of this work which nobody is doing except by the merest scratch on the surface.
“I hear a great deal about work in the small communities and work in the rural communities, and I know that earnest efforts are being made, but know too that they are pitifully inadequate compared with the actual need. Do you gentlemen think that the Jews of America, or the Jews of your Congregations can be given a sufficiently large vision to see that they have the concern of the Judaism of their people beside themselves?
“I do not like compromises but as it may take some time to reach the ideal, a half way measure can be suggested which is better than no bread at all. There is hardly a State in the Union in which some communities of the kind I outlined do not exist. Would our Rabbis and our Congregations be sufficiently large-minded and self-sacrificing to undertake the task in certain neighboring Congregations, in addition to their own? If every man here would take one such small Congregation in his neighborhood under his wing he would in the course of years do a piece of work which in the totality would prevent this great attrition which under present circumstances seems to be inevitable,” he stated.
“Think about it gentlemen. Enter into active cooperation with the United Synagogue to this end. Your example will cause other similar rabbinical bodies to take it up. There is room enough for all, let trivialties be put aside. Let individualism stop, whether it be the individualism of boosting one’s own Congregation or of causing difficulties and discussion by inroads upon liturgy or ritual.